There are few new sports proposals that excite me these days.
Even when something does come along, like the proposed 4th and 15 “onside kick” that was championed by the Eagles in 2020—and, again, in 2021—it gets shot down fast. Speaking of the NFL, I am genuinely happy about a 17th regular-season game in 2021, but I try not to share my happiness with other NFL fans, lest they think I’m trolling them. The same can be said for my support of expanding the postseason field from 12 to 14 teams a season ago.
I’m too afraid that I’ll anger the folks who don’t want more NFL football...for some reason.
But there is a new proposal out there that has me jumping for joy, and that’s the idea of expanding the college football playoff field from four to 12 teams. The proposal made news last week and is currently being explored by a four-person committee.
I’m not a betting man, but I’d wager that a 12-team field will most likely become a reality at some point. From what I’ve read, it’s a rather logical idea that will award an automatic bid to each champion of the Power Five conferences, plus a bid for a champion from one of the Group of Five conferences (I just learned that term but think MAC or Mountain West Conference). The other six seeds will be at-large bids and will most likely be dominated by the SEC and Notre Dame.
I can’t wait. I think sports fans need an expanded college playoff field. Why? Excitement, that’s why. Also, I believe the team that eventually gets to hoist that weird-looking CFP trophy will seem like a more legit champion. One of the weirder realities in modern sports has been the crowning of a CFB college football national champion after the smallest of tournaments, and even that only became a thing fairly recently—there was a time when the media just voted for the winner. Will there be a 13th team that is angry just about every year because it didn’t get in? Will at least one Group of Five winner feel like it got screwed more often than not? Yes and yes, but there will always be THAT in college athletics.
Mostly, I like the fact that an expanded field will keep more college football fans and teams invested in the idea of claiming that weird-looking trophy. As a fan of the Pitt Panthers, I can dream the impossible dream. Heck, if you’re a fan of the Temple Owls, you may be able to dream of an Elite Eight appearance that doesn’t involve legendary basketball coach, the late, great John Chaney.
It’s going to be fantastic! Look out, NFL, an expanded college football field could one day give your postseason tournament a run for its money. Why? Fun. Excitement. Passion.
You ever watch a college football game? Those folks in attendance—often 100,000 packed in like sardines dressed in primary colors— don’t seem all that worried about traffic, the price of a beer or even the level of competition. They’re there to cheer on their teams. It’s a three-hour celebration consisting of fight songs, dances and chants. The fans are into it. The players are into it. Not much is considered a distraction because, well, that’s just silly.
It’s a stark contrast to today’s NFL climate where everyone from the owners to the coaches to the players and fans is wound about as tight as LaMarr Woodley’s hamstrings.
Do you think college football fans care about touchdown celebrations? No. They probably want to join in—they often do when they storm the field after a huge win.
Anyway, just wait until the ratings for the 12-team field come out. They may not rival the NFL’s right away, but I can see it happening eventually. I can certainly envision a 12-team football field quickly surpassing the 68-team basketball tournament in an “I gotta call off work” kind of way.
What about those brackets? Would you give top seed Alabama the edge over 8th seed Michigan State? Sure, but what if it’s Auburn, the Tide’s top rival? An actual playoff matchup between those two schools could cause the entire state of Alabama to implode...days before kickoff.
I also like the idea of the four highest-ranked conference winners getting automatic byes. If that part of the proposal remains intact, Notre Dame, a football program that never wants to be part of a conference, will always have to play three games to be crowned champion. Speaking of which, what if Alabama doesn’t win the SEC one year and has to take the long route to the title, while Baylor, the Big 12 champion, only has to play two games?
Talk about evening the playing field between the traditional haves and the have nots.
One thing I will say about the NFL is it has always been great about creating a system that gives every team an equal chance. Even if you don’t really believe a seventh seed can run the table en route to a Super Bowl title, at least that seventh seed has a chance to line up and give it a shot.
A 12-team playoff field could combine college football’s passion with the NFL’s belief in parity and make for the most glorious postseason tournament we’ve ever seen.
Finally, who knows what a 12-team college football postseason field will ultimately look like when it does officially become a reality, but it might be the greatest thing to hit the sports world since the advent of the Super Bowl.